Latest ’whale beer’ in Iceland: what a load of b*lls!
In what feels increasingly like a warped version of the Hokeycokey (in… out…in…out), ‘whale beer’ will once again be on sale in Iceland from January 23rd – but with an obscene twist. This time it will be flavoured by smoked fin whale testicles. Yes, really.
Whale beer #1 – January 2014
Last January, we reported on the sale of ‘Whale Beer’, brainchild of the Steðja brewery in Iceland. The launch of the beer, which contained a small amount of whale meal, was timed to coincide with the Icelandic mid-winter festival of Þorrablót (Thorrablot) in honour of the Norse god, Thor, a reinvented ‘tradition’. At the time, brewery owner, Dabjartur Arilíusson, declared: “This is a unique beer, brewed in collaboration with Hvalur hf. Whale beer will include, among other things, whale meal. Whale meal is very protein-rich and has almost no fat in it. That, along with the fact that no sugar is added, makes this a very healthful drink and people will be true Vikings drinking it.”
However, before it hit the shelves, the beer was banned by the Public Health Authority in Vesturland, where the Steðja brewery is located, as the whale meal – which contained amongst other things whale intestines – failed food hygiene regulations. Days later, the Fisheries Minister overturned the ban and ruled that the beer could indeed go on sale. It rapidly sold out – but there followed a final twist in October, when the original decision of the Vesturland Public Health Authority to ban it was upheld.
Whale beer #2 – January 2015
Undeterred, the Steðja brewery announced today that it is brewing a beer using smoked fin whale testicles which will be available later this month. Aptly named Hvalur 2, the beer is a blatant plug for the source of the whale testicles – once again, Kristjan Loftsson’s fin whaling company.
In an interview with Visir today, Dabjartur Arilíusson boasted “We want to create a true Þorri (Thorri) atmosphere and therefore, we decided to use smoked testicles from fin whales for flavouring the beer. The testicles are cured according to an old Icelandic tradition, lightly salted and then smoked. We put a lot of effort into this and it’s a long process” – adding that each brewing had contained one testicle.
The Þorri festival is of course known for offering dishes which include fermented shark and smoked ram’s testicles, so offering dung-smoked whale testicle beer is clearly playing to the ‘Viking’ theme.
Is it legal?
Despite being legal this time (it appears that the use of this whale ‘product’ has been authorised by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, MAST, and Visir reports that Helgi Helgason, Director of the Vesturland Public Health Authority, has confirmed that the brewery has been authorised to sell beer brewed with whale testicles), the move is certainly highly provocative and a cheap marketing ploy, but that is nothing new for Kristjan Loftsson.
There is more to this, however, than mere sensationalism – this is a calculated move, not only to dishonour a beautiful and endangered creature by using its most intimate of body parts as a marketing tool, but also sends a clear ‘two fingers’ to the conservation community and those who love and respect whales.
And again, there’s more to this than meets the eye – beyond the hype, the reality is a man who is clinging on stubbornly to a dying industry, constantly casting around for new ways to offload his goods. Yes, it is cynical, but it is also desperate. Loftsson is likely sponsoring this beer and it will be costing him a lot of money, at a time when he is experiencing increasing difficulty in offloading whale meat, even to Japan.
Right-minded people would no sooner drink beer brewed with whale testicles than they would order similar drinks made with tiger, elephant or rhino testicles and our hope, of course, is that visitors to Iceland – a truly beautiful country with lively, friendly people – will treat this latest offering with the disdain it deserves.
Truly scraping the bottom of the barrel.
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Comments on this product (please be polite!) may be sent to the relevant authority:
Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) www.mast.is/